Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Story Time . . . DANCE OF THE DANDELION by Dina L. Sleiman

I'm tickled to be able to feature Dance of the Dandelion by Dina L. Sleiman today. Our latest title from WhiteFire, Dandelion will make her official debut tomorrow, and I can't wait to see what she does. =)

First, let's all admire the awesome cover. George of Tekeme Studios did it again, and somehow managed to capture the essence of the book and the author without more information than a questionnaire. The lovely maiden dancing on the cover is Dina's own daughter, on whom she modeled the heroine. Perfect, isn't it?

Now, curious about the book yet? You oughta be. ;-) I'll give you the official description, then chat about it a bit.

Love's quest leads her the world over.

Dandelion Dering was born a peasant in the English village of Arun, but her soul yearned for another life, another world. One filled with color and music, with adventure and passion  . . . with more. Haunted by childhood memories, Dandelion determines to find a better existence than the life every peasant in the village contents themselves with. Even if her sweetheart William’s predictions prove true, and her journey leads straight to heartache.

From her sleepy  hamlet to the intrigue of castle life, from the heart of London to the adventurous seas, Dandelion flees from the mistakes of her past, always seeking that something, that someone who will satisfy her longings.

Will Dandelion ever find the rhythm to her life's dance . . . or did she leave her chance for true love at home in Arun Village?

At this point I've read Dance of the Dandelion about three and a half times (some spot reading along the way), so I feel like I know it backward, forward, and inside out. =) But here's what I remember from my first time reading it:

Dina has a way of writing about life with passion. Passion for her setting, for her topic, and most of all for the Lord. In the course of the story, Dandelion makes some good decisions, some bad decisions, some smart, some stupid. I didn't always agree with her and there were moments I didn't much like her. But through it all, Dandelion was searching for love, and for God. And that's what propelled me through the story, scrolling through madly. That's what made me love the book and the title character.

This is one of those rare stories that makes you question what you want for the character, makes you wonder what you'd do in her shoes. It's one of those novels that leads you to a deeper understanding of faith and God, of love and self-identity.

It's a book that makes you want to dance your way through life.

I'm really excited to have Dina and Dandelion in the WhiteFire family, and I'm confident that anyone who likes my books or Christine Lindsay's Shadowed in Silk will fall in love with Dance of the Dandelion too. Dina has written with panache and poetic brilliance a book that perfectly fits WhiteFire's motto: Where Spirit Meets the Page.

I hope you all check it out!
(Digital release is 1 June and print release is 1 October.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Word of the Week - Memorial

No thought at all went into selecting this week's word. =) Given that today is Memorial Day and all, here we go!

Memorial. Memorial is a word straight from the Latin memoriale, so it's been in English approximately forever. Since the late 14th century it's been used exactly as it's used now - something by which a memory is preserved.

But the interesting thing is in Memorial Day. It's been used generically, as any day of memory, since the 1830s. But after the Civil War it became a national holiday to commemorate the fallen Northern soldiers. It started unofficially in the 1860s and became recognized by veteran groups in 1869. 

I don't know about you, but I didn't realize it was a Civil War thing! Pretty interesting.

So, everybody have big Memorial Day plans? My family is combining the M-Day picnic with my grandmother's b-day party. So in honor of that, I made this cake, which I'm calling my Hydrangea-in-a-Basket cake. =)

Hope everyone has a fun, relaxing, rejuvenating holiday, and that we use it to memorialize those who have fought and fallen for our wonderful nation.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Books Arriving and Anniversaries

First, yesterday two boxes of Jewel of Persia arrived on my porch! Yay! That means that I can take off the "pre-order" designation from the listing on our store and actually sign and send any books ordered. =) So if you've been waiting (ahem), you can now go to CrossPurposes Books to order! Then just email me with personalization requests. (Instructions are in the product description.) Or if you aren't into shipping but will be at ACFW in September, you can get one there. =)

Also, if you're an influencer or have won a copy on the blog tour, I'll be signing and packing those up in the next day or two, so the wait is over for you guys too!

Now, onto my real topic. ;-)

Hard as it is to believe, my hubby and I are about to celebrate our 10th anniversary. I can still remember our beautiful beach wedding like it was yesterday, but time has sprinted by (time's quite the athlete, isn't it?) and here we are. Ten years, five moves, and two kids later.

We're trying to figure out the perfect trip for the occasion. We've long discussed taking a an extended weekend somewhere, just the two of us, for this. But not that it's decision time, we can't decide where to go. We've considered Maryland's Eastern Shore. We've talked about New York City. We've toyed with something Caribbean. Then David pointed out that for the same price, the family could take a week-long vacation in the Outer Banks.

One mark in the favor of that plan is that it's where we got married. I'm a big fan of symmetry and poetic stuff like that. ;-) Of course, if we went a whole week, we'd take the kids, and likely one or both of our parental units would join us. Which would mean that, at least, someone could babysit the kids on our anniversary and we could go out for a nice dinner.

Another part of me says, "But that's not the couple trip we talked about."

Advice is welcome! Any brilliant ideas on where we should go, or if we should opt for the family vacation? Keeping in mind we're not made of money. ;-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remember When . . . The Money Was Fake?

I'm always amazed by how long counterfeiting has been around. Don't know why it surprises me, but yeah. Pretty much ever since there was paper money, there have been counterfeiting.

The big counterfeiting rings, however, often seem to be official. Ever heard the story about how Hitler had a massive operation set up to counterfeit British pounds and American dollars? Well, he sure wasn't the first leader who decided that was another way to fight a war. The British did it to the Americans too.

During the Revolution, the British began counterfeiting Congressional dollars pretty much as soon as Congress started printing them. The result? Well, a dollar was, shall we say, not off to a great start. In many parts of the young country prices had already risen to absurd numbers because of the boycott. In New York, they had the opposite problem--imported goods were still reasonably priced, but they couldn't get staples. The price of a pound of beef raised something like 800% in three years. And if you tried to pay with dollars? Ha!

They were, literally, using the dollars as wallpaper.

The British were so set on this plan to undermine the new American economy that they set up a counterfeiting headquarters on a ship the New York governor used as a floating state house. They'd sprung a forger from jail and put him to work. Nice, eh? The one flaw--their paper was too thick.

Until, that is, they stole several reams of paper from the press in Philadelphia.

It's a wonder our economy ever recovered, isn't it? Well, I'll now leave you hanging as to what happened and get to writing the novel about what happened. ;-) Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Story Time . . . Christian Romance - Ministry or Danger?

Last Wednesday, Russel Moore, a prominent minister, posted this. It's a blog entitled "Can Romance Novels Hurt Your Heart?" and quotes a study expounded on in the book A Billion Wicked Thoughts. In short, this book explains that just like pornography appeals to a man's visual predisposition and creates in him an idea of women that's unrealistic and so harmful to his real-life relationships, so do romance novels appeal to a woman's emotional predisposition and creates in her an idea of men that's unrealistic (because they're based on alpha men who are rich, gorgeous, wild-but-tamed-by-heroine, and emotionally sensitive) and so damages relationships.

Mr. Moore takes this study and applies it to Christian romance and asks if the women who keep a Christian romance on their bedside table are hurting their marriages.

After 164 replies, most opinions on this subject have been made known, LOL. But it's a subject that upsets me, so I'd like to discuss it here.

This is what I grant Mr. Moore. Some women do indeed battle feelings of dissatisfaction with their love lives, their marriages, and their husbands when they see other romances. They feel their spouses don't add up, and being shown that really doesn't help. So yes, it's great to bring that to the attention of said women and say, "So, well, maybe you oughta steer clear of romantic stuff. Books, movies, etc."

Of course, as one commenter pointed out, those same women might be struck by this same comparison when they see Mr. Smith open the door for his wife at church and exchange a special smile with her.

So--I grant this is a valid point, and I hope every woman, if she feels dissatisfied with her relationships, stops to really examine why and to either steer clear of the catalysts or to take the time to work on this within herself (or both). Several women spoke up on this blog who readily admit that this is something they have to deal with. I applaud them.

But here's where this post really hurt my heart. Mr. Moore wrote a long article about how romance and pornography are alike. Then he made an assumption that Christian romance is built on the same principles as the mainstream erotica that this book studied. THEN he said that he wasn't equating Christian romance with the soul-destroying pornography, but we must ask ourselves if these books are building marriages and promoting unity or if they're causing harm.

Well, my answer is that they're building marriages, promoting unity, and saving souls. And frankly, it hurts that a prominent pastor not only calls our ministry into question, but asks his entire readership to do the same. We have enough to battle within the world--why are we attacking each other within the Church?

The nicest thing this blog did was grant that not all Christian romances were necessarily evil. I contend that that's like saying that all pastors are "not necessarily evil" since they don't all cheat on their wives or lead people into cults. That's like saying that not all Christians are evil, since they don't all use the Bible to dominate and abuse. But some do! 

Yes. Some do. But when someone points out that stuff, I cry out, "No, no no! Why would you judge an entire ministry based on a few? What about all the souls pastors save? What about all the relationships they build? What about all the many ways they strengthen our faith?"

I have to cry out the same thing here. "No, no, no! Why would you judge the entire ministry of Christian fiction because of how it affects some? What about all those letters we get saying readers were led to the Lord through our stories? What about the ones who say they were inspired to save their crumbling marriages? What about the ones who come to a deeper faith because of these books?"

Because THOSE are the majority. And that's the case because Christian romance is NOT built upon the same principles as mainstream romance, and we don't just gussy it up with prayer instead of sex. That anyone would claim we do is so insulting. More, it's disheartening. After years and years, Christian fiction is finally gaining a foothold in the industry, and then our own leaders prejudge us (because you bet these guys haven't read any of today's Christian romance--that's pretty obvious by the assumptions) and not only question that we are in ministry, but equate us to pornographers.

As you can see, I'm still fired up about this. I don't just read Christian Romance, I don't just write Christian Romance, I edit it and publish it. It's my entire professional life. Now, do I like to break molds with it? Absolutely. Do I chafe against some of the guidelines of traditional romance that were held over in Christian romance? Yes, I do. But I believe in its principles, in its goals, in its very real ministry to many people who otherwise may dismiss the messages that come through so naturally in fiction.

And I'd love to chat about it, explore both sides with others. So what's your take?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Word of the Week - Longueur

This week's word comes to us courtesy of Dictionary.com's Word of the Day. =) It's my homepage, and occasionally I so love the words they highlight that I just have to share.

So, longueur. Ever heard of it? I hadn't, I confess. It's pronounced long-GUR, and here's the definition:

"A dull and tedious passage in a book, play, musical composition, or the like."

Now doesn't that just make you go, "Oh, that's what I should call those?? Sweet! I have a name for it! And it sounds so close to "longer" that it makes a ton of sense, because that's what it makes said books, plays, or music feel like!" LOL.

So rest assured that my compositions will make every attempt to avoid any longueur. And on that note . . .

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Friend Susan Page Davis - Interview and Giveaway!

Today I'm happy to welcome Susan Page David back to my blog to talk about her novella in the collection Wyoming Weddings. Glad to talk to you again, Susan!

Readers, Susan has generously offered a copy of the collection to one lucky winner--to be entered, leave a comment below with an email address where I can reach you.


About Wyoming Weddings

Wyoming Weddings includes three complete novels. through the challenges of life and love in Wyoming. Saddle up with Ruby on an endurance horseback ride that bonds her with the local veterinarian and leads to crime-solving adventure in Trail to Justice (by Susan Page Davis). Ride along with Randi who drives a truck throughout the state. She befriends a traveling minister at a time when she longs to be home with her niece in Hearts on the Road (by Diana Brandmeyer). Sympathize with Bethany and her family as their guest ranch is threatened just when a city slicker arrives with a bunch of teens in A Wagonload of Trouble (by Vickie McDonough). Can these women surmount their troubles to pursue romance with the new men in their lives?


About Susan

Susan Page Davis is the award-winning author of more than thirty novels, including the Ladies’ Shooting Club series and Frasier Island Series. A native of Maine, she now lives in Kentucky.


What's your latest book?

Wyoming Weddings, from Barbour, released May 1. It’s a collection of three contemporary romances set in Wyoming. My story, Trail to Justice, comes first in the book. It’s followed by Diana Brandmeyer’s Hearts on the Road and Vickie McDonough’s A Wagonload of Trouble.

The sport of endurance riding has interested me for many years. I wrote a book for young people about it (Sarah’s Long Ride) and also did several nonfiction articles on the sport. I decided to put some adults in the saddle for this book that I wrote for Heartsong Presents. In Trail to Justice, Ruby Dale is a police dispatcher who likes to trail ride on weekends. She’s helped with endurance rides, but never had the chance to compete. Now she has the opportunity, and to make it even better, veterinarian Chuck Sullivan is also entered in the 100-mile race. When the defending champion takes a shine to them and pushes Ruby and Chuck to try to finish in the top three with him, they find adventures they never expected.

What fun! I took riding lessons for about a year when I was 10. I like to remember myself as being better at it than I really was, LOL. What's your favorite part of the story?

I love the way Ruby relies on God to help her complete the most difficult task she’s ever faced—and I’m not talking about the trail ride, but I don’t want to spill the beans.

Teasing us, are you? Crafty. ;-) What was the hardest part to write?

Blending the romance with the action and the mystery.

I bet you did a stellar job! What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

Even when you think you’ve made a huge mess of things, God is still in control. Let Him work it out!

Amen to that! Thank heavens He can see it all clearly, eh? So let's talk nitty-gritty. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

For this book, the American Endurance Riding Conference’s Website was a big help. English Through the Ages is indispensable when I’m writing historicals.

And what are you writing right now?

I’m writing Lady Anne’s Quest, which will be the second book in my new Prairie Dreams series. The first book, The Lady’s Maid, will release in October. In it, Lady Anne Stone and her maid leave England in 1855 to look for Anne’s uncle, who has disappeared into the American West.

Ah, sounds wonderful! Any upcoming releases we should keep our eye out for?

Yes. Next week I’ll receive my editor’s suggestions for revisions on Captive Trail. This book is part of the new Texas Trails series from Moody, and I’m very excited about it. In 1857 Texas, a stagecoach driver finds an unconscious woman lying in the road—a white woman dressed as a Comanche. He’s determined to find out who she is and reunite her with her family. Captive Trail releases September 1.

We'll keep our eye out for the Prairie Dreams ones too!


Thanks so much for visiting again, Susan! Readers, check out her website at www.susanpagedavis.com. You can purchase Wyoming Weddings at Amazon or ChristianBook.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 5/27/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Old Friends

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I think many of us get to connect with old friends we otherwise wouldn't see, right? It can be super awesome to exchange even a few lines with a buddy from high school you haven't spoken to in a decade. It is for me, anyway. =)

Yesterday was Brittney's birthday--Brittney was my absolutely-without-a-doubt-best-friend from age 5 through about 14. We drifted apart a bit in high school--stayed friendly, but not inseparable by any means. Still, May 18th can't roll around without me thinking of her. Thinking of all the fun we had over the years. The fashion showed, the magazine we made from photos glued with the decorative, neon-colored paints so popular in the late '80s, the games of make-believe that kept us entertained for days on end.

I also just touched base with another girl from our middle school group, Melissa. Melissa took to calling me "Mom" in 8th grade, and my nickname for her was Mylissa. When I finished my first novel, she was at my house. And when I came into school the following Monday, she'd made me a card that said, "So proud of you, Mommy."

These are a few of the girls that grew with me, whose friendships shaped me. Girls I rarely talk to, more rarely still manage to see . . . but who are often in my prayers.

As someone who married her high school sweetheart, it's sometimes really sad to realize I never talk to my high school friends. For someone who emails her best friend (who she's only met twice) several times a day, it's baffling why I can't keep in touch with these others.

It's strange how different our lives are.

Brittney's lived in New York, is now in Pittsburgh. She's in marketing and is, when last I saw her, one of those statuesque, model-esque women who always look gorgeous with their yoga-inspired figures and impeccable fashion sense. Needless to say, I felt a bit dowdy when I last hugged her--I was six months pregnant with Rowyn and carrying Xoe on my hip.

Melissa, on the other hand, lives out in the country, within driving distance of me, but I couldn't tell you how to get to her house, LOL. She has four kids and helps her husband run his construction company. One of the last times I saw her was at her wedding, when she and her husband (each having a daughter already), pledged their lives and joined their families. It's the only wedding I ever cried at, so beautiful was it when her little girl pointed at the bride coming up the aisle and declared happily, "Mama!"

Ever wonder what these old friends see if they look at you? I do. Yes, I've fulfilled my goal of being an author--more or less, LOL. I have books out . . . on a small scale. I have a big(ish) contract . . . but it's not out. And even when it is, it's just one book. I'm not a household name. I doubt I'll ever be a household name. My house is old and not exactly breathtaking. I could probably make it nicer, but I choose to spend my energy writing. And homeschooling. I like to think I put myself together pretty well, but let's be honest--no flat, yoga bellies here. I generally come to the conclusion that "slender" is good enough, since I don't have to work for it. "Fit" just takes too much work, LOL.

But most of all, I hope that when I see these old friends again, they see the Annie they loved. They see a girl who chased her dreams. They see a woman glad she made the decisions she made, who loves her life even when it isn't glamorous or hugely successful. I hope they see the same thing I do--a woman who has been shaped by great childhood friends into an adult worth knowing.

How about you guys? Do you still keep in touch with your very first best friends?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Remember When . . . The Ink Was Invisible?

Last week I told everyone how I created my own invisible ink from household items like lemon juice, honey water, etc. A super-fun experiment, I gotta say. Of course, then I learned that those heat-developed inks were seldom used by the 18th century because they were so easy to develop. Anyone could just hold any letter to a flame and see if a message appeared. I can still use it in my story for not-crucial correspondence, but the actual letters of espionage to General Washington during the war used something very different.

Something called "the sympathetic stain." Historians still don't know exactly what it was, though they have a pretty good guess, based on the clues left to us as to where they had to procure the ingredients. Interestingly, it was John Jay and his brother who came up with this stain--and the first time it was used was when said brother wrote a letter of warning from England when that nation was gearing up for war.

The awesome thing about this stain is that is can be developed only by a very particular reagent, which only the folks corresponding regularly had in their possession. You couldn't just stumble upon it. And because of that, letters written in the stain were very secure.

And the stain was very precious. So precious, in fact, that a few of the folks in possession of it were afraid of running out and so did not use it on some key correspondence--and got wrist-slapped by Washington for it, LOL.

The stain was nonetheless difficult to use. You needed high quality paper for it to work well on, and just the right amount of reagent to develop it. Too much would wash away the ink, too little just wouldn't make it reveal. Apparently they took to using a paint brush to apply it.

The code name for this stain was "medicine," and the Jays shipped it to Washington in a medical supply box. Had anyone intercepted it, it would have looked like any other vial of liquid medication.

But it wasn't. It was the agent that allowed key information to pass to the Patriot army. Information that may have saved us from becoming British colonists again.

Hooray for the Sympathetic Stain! =)

On a side note, check out my guest blog on F.A.I.T.H. Girls today, on the topic of being one of many wives in a harem.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Story Time . . . Washington's Spies

Would you believe I haven't read any fiction in the last week-plus? Primarily because I've spent my free time doing research for a story idea. So I figure, eh, might as well talk to you about that! =)

I'll confess it from the start--I don't read much non-fiction. Why? Because I read so much of it during college that I just got burned out on it. But apparently it's now been long enough since then (where did that time go, anyway?) that I can read it again without feeling at all put out about it. Handy, since in looking up info about the subject of my newest idea, I came across a very interesting-sounding book that I knew would be helpful: Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose.

My library didn't have this one, but thanks to the wonders of ILL, they had it for me in three days, and I cracked it open with genuine enthusiasm. I haven't read any non-fiction on the Revolutionary War since college (and then it was more political treatises of the era, not history of the war), so I found this to be a wonderful refresher on the history in general. Better still, it focused entirely on the use of espionage in the war, by both sides. And really, what could be more fun than that? ;-)

Rose doesn't follow a strict chronology in this--he follows stories, usually about the particular people, and uses those to take him from point to point. Which means you know exactly where to flip back to if you need to remind yourself about where someone was born, or who his father was, but locating a date for a particular action of his requires the help of the index.

The writing of this book was never dry and at times downright witty. I actually chuckled at several places. And at several others I found it necessary to interrupt my reading to share a particularly interesting factoid with my hubby. Mr. Rose found many ways to integrate little-known facts from the day that only had the smallest thing to do with the main subject; and he integrated them in such a way that you knew without doubt he had submersed himself fully in this era as he wrote the book. Something I, as I writer, certainly appreciate.

I did find a few typos in the dates given, like saying something happened in 1778 that happened in 1780. Typos, which I understand, but which confused me endlessly, LOL.

Overall, if you're a history buff who loves reading about lesser-known portions of well-loved times, this is a fabulous book. It presents a fair, honest picture of what life was like from 1776-1784, not embellished by glamorous ideas or romance.

But no worries--I plan to embellish with plenty of romance when I write a novel set in the time. ;-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Word of the Week - Intelligence

Intelligence is a pretty old world. It's been around since the 14th century, meaning exactly what it does now. And even the secondary meaning--"information gathered, especially by spies"--dates back to the 1580s. I found this pretty surprising.

As I'm doing research for a spy novel set centuries ago, I'm paying close attention to all this stuff, and this one jumped out at me. Especially because General Washington often referred to his spies as "intelligencers," a word I just love (though Spell Check sure doesn't!)

It's not often we find a word that hasn't changed its meaning so fully over the course of 700 years!

And that's apparently all the intelligence I can muster on a Monday morning before even a whiff of coffee. Hope your day is full of it! ;-)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . the Poetry of Prayers

As I'm doing some basic research for a new story idea, I wanted to figure out what my heroine would call the Lord. She comes from a congregationalist, rather Puritan background, so I started by looking up Puritan prayers. And wow, am I glad I did.

These prayers are so beautiful that I copied them into a document and broke them into lines and stanzas as if they were poetry. Reading through them like this . . . it really showcases the perfection of faith, how it combines our weakness with His strength. I was so very blessed by these yesterday that I wanted to share these two with you today.

Also, the Colonial Quill is sharing first lines of stories today, if you want to check it out!

The Deeps

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance,
a horror of sin, a dread of its approach.
Help me chastely to flee it
and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself
to find myself in Thee,
the ground of my rest, the spring of my being.
Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself
as saviour, master, lord, and king.

Give me deeper power in private prayer,
more sweetness in Thy Word,
more steadfast grip on its truth.

Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action,
and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman,
that my being may be a tilled field,
the roots of grace spreading far and wide,
until Thou alone art seen in me,
Thy beauty golden like summer harvest,
Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will,
no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest,
no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest.

I am nothing but that Thou makest me.
I have nothing but that I receive from Thee.
I can be nothing but that grace adorns me.

Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me
to overflowing with living water.


God of my end, it is my greatest, noblest pleasure
to be acquainted with Thee
and with my rational, immortal soul;
it is sweet and entertaining to look into my being
when all my powers and passions
are united and engaged in pursuit of Thee,
when my soul longs and passionately breathes
after conformity to Thee and the full enjoyment of Thee;
no hours pass away with so much pleasure
as those spent in communion with Thee
and with my heart.

O how desirable, how profitable to the Christian life
is a spirit of holy watchfulness and godly jealousy over myself
when my soul is afraid of nothing
except grieving and offending Thee,
the blessed God, my Father and friend,
whom I then love and long to please,
rather than be happy in myself!
Knowing, as I do, that this is the pious temper,
worthy of the highest ambition,
and closest pursuit of intelligent creatures and holy Christians,
may my joy derive from glorifying and delighting Thee.

I long to fill all my time for Thee,
whether at home or in the way;
to place all my concerns in Thy hands;
to be entirely at Thy disposal,
having no will or interest of my own.
Help me to live to Thee for ever,
to make Thee my last and only end,
so that I may never more in one instance
love my sinful self.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Remember When . . . Science was Fun (and Research)?

I'm in the process of doing research for a historical spy novel. And boy is it fun! This being before the age of super spy gadgets, most espionage was conducted through secret messages. And some of those secret messages were written in invisible ink. Ooo, fun!

I did some basic searching on what they used for this stuff, how it worked, etc. First I found simple instructions on household items you could use to make invisible ink. Though my source didn't bother telling me what they looked like, what the ratio of substance to water should be, which developed best, etc.

Well, I decided, why not figure it out for myself?

Can you see me rubbing my hands together in delight? I can't remember the last time I did an impromptu science experiment that had nothing to do with my daughter's home school. I may have been heard cackling as I got out a piece of paper, a paintbrush, and then pulled out my spy tools.

Lemon Juice.
Saliva (the least-gross of the recommended bodily fluids)
And of course, water.

Nothing gave me ratios, but I knew that the whole point was to dilute the substance so that it would not dry visibly on the paper, but only appear when heat is applied. So I mixed each substance with water (totally guessing on the recipe) and wrote a line with each, just the name of which substance I was using at the time.

Imagine me fidgeting while it all dried, and wondering which would make the paper wave the least. Though that was more a matter of silly me using too much, I think . . .

Finally we were dry. Because I'm just so silly, I got out my pot of ink, my glass stylus (no quill right now, though I used to have one) and wrote a "real" message too. Time to develop!

These are all heat-revealed, and one resource recommended a light bulb, an oven, or an iron. But come on--who had those on a battlefield (Or in this era in general, if we're talking light bulbs)? I turned on my gas stove (no matches handy for a candle, LOL) and held out the paper.


I help it closer, just briefly. Waved it over the flame.


Grrrrrrrrr. I know this works. So swallowing my fear of burning the whole house down for a stupid experiment for a novel, I take the paper closer. I can smell the paper heating. I watch it begin to discolor above the flame. And there! Words appear.

"Lemon juice dilute."

Yay! We have a winner! Not to give up on the others so easily, I moved the paper and watched "Sugar water" appear next. Along with a smoky brown spot that made me think any amateur spies had better practice this a few times to learn how to best develop without burning the message whole. ;-) Also learned that these must not have been the inks used in National Treasure, because they sure don't disappear again, LOL.

Later that night I had my chemistry-inclined hubby help me figure out some of the more complicated inks, but I gotta say, this impromptu experiment was a ton of fun! 

Happy researching to you all! ;-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Story Time . . . SURRENDER THE NIGHT by MaryLu Tyndall

Rose has all she needs on her farm outside Baltimore. Her pigs, her cows, her chickens . . . and an escape from the  rest of the world. She has lost so much, she fears so much--but surely here she is safe.

Alexander Reed knows well that his only chance at redemption in the eyes of his family lies with finding glory in the British navy. But when a dastardly fellow officer makes to attack yet another American girl on yet another farm, solely because she is American, decency demands that Alex take action. Unfortunately, he gets injured for his trouble.

Rose has no idea what to do when she's faced with being saved by a now-hurt British soldier. On the one hand, he saved her life. But on the other, he's British? What's she to do with this handsome officer? If she helps him, she could be hanged for treason.  But if she doesn't, what kind of person would she be?

Surrounded by war and prejudice on both sides of the battle, threatened with the attention of a distasteful suitor who will use anything in his power to make Rose--and her farm--his, and faced with the ultimate decisions of faith and loyalty, Rose and Alex must find their own course in a time of treachery . . . before all they love is destroyed.

Can I just say I LOVED this book? I loved this book! It was heart-thudding romance, it was excitement in war, it had the star-crossed lovers vibe, and it was, as MaryLu's books always are, a test of faith that shows us the power of our prayers when all is at its worse.

I not only enjoyed this awesome historical novel, I also learned some incredibly interesting facts about the War of 1812 that I hadn't known, especially concerning the burning of Washington, D.C.  Given the setting and characters, this one wasn't quite as adventurous as the first book in the series, but it was a page-turning read that I had serious trouble putting down.

Lovers of historical romance won't want to miss this one!

*This book was provided to me free of charge

Monday, May 9, 2011

Word of the Week - Debut (And a debut!)

Today I'm tickled pink to announce the debut of a new group blog called Colonial Quills. About, you guessed it, authors and books focused on early American history! I'm proud to be a contributor to the blog thanks to my upcoming Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland that's set in 1783, and in awe of the beautiful site Carla Olsen Gade put together for us. Stop on by and have some tea, get to know the ladies, and admire the beautiful artwork!

And in honor of this fabulous event, I thought I'd explore the word "debut" for this week's word. I think we all know it's French, right? And Fowler (the grammar expert associated with the OED) says:

"D├ębut can only be pronounced as French, and should not be used by anyone who shrinks from the necessary effort."

Tee hee hee. So don't try to say it day-BUTT. Interestingly, debut came to us from France in 1751 to mean "first appearance" as a shortened form of "debuter," which means to make the first stroke at billiards. I don't know about you, but I had no clue it was a billiards term! The verb didn't come to be until 1830. Pretty neat, huh?

So hop on over to http://colonialquills.blogspot.com and celebrate this particular debut with us!

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Friend Thomas - Interivew & Giveaway

Today we're bringing you a different kind of book, and talking with its author about it. Ready for a scare? ;-) Give a big, hearty welcome to Thomas Smith, and leave a comment with email address below for a chance to win his Christian horror novel, Something Stirs. (Which isn't about coffee, by the way.)


About Something Stirs

Some houses are only haunted … this one is worse.

Ben Chalmers is a successful novelist. His wife, Rachel, is a fledgling artist with a promising career, and their daughter Stacy is the joy of their life. His novels have made enough money for him to provide a dream home for his family.  But there is a force at work in their lives. A dark, chilling, ruthless force that has become part of the very fabric of their new home.

A malevolent entity becomes trapped in the wood and stone of the house and it will do whatever it takes, to find a way to complete its bloody transference to our world.

Local Sheriff, Elizabeth Cantrell, and former pastor-turned-cabinetmaker, Jim Perry are drawn into the family’s life as the entity manipulates the house with devastating results.  And it won’t stop until it gets what it wants. Even if it costs them their faith, their sanity, and their lives.


About Thomas

Thomas is award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV news producer, playwright and essayist. He writes The Writing Life column for The Christian Communicator magazine and was named the American Christian Writers Association Writer of the Year in 2004, 2005, and again in 2006. He is a regular faculty member at American Christian Writers Association conferences and also teaches at other writers’ conferences. He was on the writing team (with Rick Warren Rob Bell, Chuck Colson, Lee Strobel, and Ravi Zacharias) responsible for Zondervan's New Men's Devotional Bible.


What's your latest book?

My novel, Something Stirs, is scheduled to be released early this summer from Sonfire Media. It’s a Christian horror novel. I started out calling it supernatural suspense, but I have to be honest … it is what it is.

Can't say as I've read many Christian horrors (and only a few supernatural thrillers), but I'm in favor of them! What was the hardest part to write?

Tippy’s death was the hardest to write. I can’t say much more than that without giving away an event that really starts things rolling, but that was one tough scene to write. In fact, I had to go back and tweak it again in the second round of edits and it was just as hard the second time. Poor Tippy.

Is there a theme to this book?

There are actually multiple themes. One has to do with how God can heal our brokenness and restore us to what He originally intended if we open ourselves up to Him. Another theme is less spiritual but just as valid. Our choices carry consequences.

They do, at that. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I really like writing what is finally being called Christian horror. Some folks still call it supernatural suspense, but regardless of what you call it, I like the challenge of making people suspend their disbelief long enough to get caught up in the story to the point they flinch when the characters flinch.

As far as reading, I real a wide range of stuff. Horror, suspense, biographies, cowboy poetry, theology and just about anything dealing with Christmas.

Nice. What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

Currently I’m reading Dean Koontz’s What the Night Knows. After I finish that one I am going to read The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1.

Gotta love Samuel Clemens. =) Other than the Bible, what's your favorite of all the books you've ever read?

When the Water Smokes by Bob Simpson

What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

I was introduced at a writer’s conference once with this line: “He’s the only writer you’ll ever meet who worked on projects with Stephen King and Rev. Rick Warren at the same time.”

LOL. That's quite a badge of honor! What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

This is pretty much my dream office. My wife has her computer and reference books set up on one end and I work from a desk my father gave me on the other end of the office. I am surrounded by reference books, other assorted books, geodes (no special reason other than I think they are neat), various toys, jars of gems we have mined on various gem mining trips, a nativity scene, a poster signed by astronaut Alan Bean, a Batman poster, lots of photos from various trips to the Caribbean and Alaska, a printer/fax/copier, laser printer, a piece of the Berlin Wall, and a singing monkey that my mother gave me for Christmas this past year. There is also a picture of me shaking hands with Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden. Lunch with him was my wife’s anniversary gift to me a few years back

Sounds cool! Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

I always have a copy of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide and The Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market Guide (the online portion is one of the main tabs on my browser) on hand.

Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Spending time with my family. Particularly, traveling with my wife. She has the opportunity to speak all over the country on the subject of treating inpatient Diabetes, and I often get to go with her. But writing takes up the biggest part of my time. I also play lead guitar with our church praise band.

If someone were to give you $5,000 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy? (No saving or gifts to charities allowed!)

A Gallagher acoustic guitar and a cruise through the Panama Canal (my wife really wants to go there).

Any funny family stories about living with a writer?

A couple of years ago my wife and I took my parents to Myrtle Beach, SC to see a couple of Christmas shows and do some Christmas shopping. At one point we went into a bookstore in the mall and I saw their A Cup of Comfort for Christmas display. It was placed prominently in the store, and since I was one of the contributors, I asked to see the manager as we were checking out. She showed up, looking a little apprehensive.

“Is there a problem?” she asked, still apprehensive.

I told her there was no problem. Quite the contrary. Their display was so nice I wanted to thank them for the placement because I was one of the contributors and it was really nice to see such a well done display.

She asked which story I wrote, and when I told her, she said, “You won’t believe this, but I just cried when I read that. Do you still have the shirt?” At that point I knew she really had read the story.

Before I could respond, she asked if I would be willing to sign about a dozen copies. Would that be an imposition?

I told her it would be my pleasure. She led me to a chair behind the counter, asked my mother if she would like some coffee, got her a chair and brought the books over. Then she told the people in line that I was there and would be doing an impromptu book signing.

When we left about 20 minutes later, my mother stopped about thirty feet from the store, took me by the elbow and said, “That was really something. Wow.” And before we got to the car she was on her cell phone telling one of her sisters, “I’ll bet you didn’t know your nephew was a celebrity.”

Mama, if you’re seeing this, I didn’t know it either.

What are you writing right now?

The answer to this question.

LOL. Is there another author who has greatly influenced your writing?

Charles L. Grant. Charlie was my literary hero when I was about 15. I always thought it would be a real thrill just to have him autograph a book. Ten years later, through a really odd set of circumstances, I met him, got to know him, and over the years he became my mentor and one of my dearest friends. He had a way with language that bordered on the poetic.

He wrote over 100 books, 200 short stories, edited a number of award winning anthologies (including the Shadows series), and won the Nebula Awards for "A Crowd of Shadows" and "A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn's Eye." He also received 3 World Fantasy Awards, the British Fantasy Society's Special Award for life achievement, Horror Writers Association's Lifetime Achievement Award and the World Horror Convention's Grandmaster Award.

Before he died (September of 2006), I was asked to write a tribute for a specialty anthology titled, Quietly Now: A Tribute to Charles L. Grant. It featured writers like Stephen King, Peter Straub, Craig Shaw Gardner, Joe R. Lansdale, and other famous-type folks. In a way I felt things had come full circle. The student was able to give a little something back to the teacher.

That's so touching--and cool! What an honor to be included in a project like that.


Thanks so much for visiting, Thomas, and giving the readers a little something out of the ordinary! Readers, check out Thomas online at the following:

Something Stirs will be available (or available for ordering) in your local book store. Or, once the book’s site goes live, additional purchasing links will be on www.SomethingStirs.com

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 6/10/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Fellowship

Happy Cinqo de Mayo, everyone! We'll be having enchiladas and arroz con leche tonight. (Homeschool, you know. It's educational, LOL.) Now onto the actual blog. ;-)

Last night I had the honor of visiting the women's group at Trinity Assembly of God in Midlothian, Maryland to chat about being an author and a little about my books. One of my mother-in-law's good friends belongs to this group and put a bug in the leader's ear about inviting me, and I'm so glad she did.

I've spoken at libraries twice, and in some ways this was a lot like those. But in a few key ways, it wasn't. Because though I'd never met these women before, it was like meeting friends. Chatting with them was like chatting with family you hadn't seen in a while. We had so much fun, they made me feel so welcome, and as I tried to pinpoint why, I came to the conclusion that it's because we know from the get-go we have a lot in common, starting with that most basic thing--our faith.

At the library talks I certainly didn't sidestep the fact that I write Biblical fiction, but the questions people asked tended to point in other directions. At Trinity last night, so much conversation either led back to the Lord or reflected Him. Not always overtly, but it was there. Always there, because He is always in us.

It really hammered home why Paul tells us not to forsake the fellowship of other believers. That fellowship, that communion is so awesome, and so important. Not just in church itself--which is also awesome and important, don't get me wrong--but in those after-church meetings. Those times when like-minded folks get together for fun and just let the Lord shine through them.

This is the same reason I so enjoy going to Christian writers conferences, now that I think about it. It's a chance to talk to other people who are like-minded. And hence why I'm so looking forward to going to Hagerstown, Maryland on Saturday for the Washington County Reading Day at the Valley Mall. There I'll get to chat with a couple other fellow Christian writers, and I'm really looking forward to that (whether I sell any books or not, LOL).

So what's your favorite time of fellowship? At church? A Bible study? A writers group? Perhaps at a Jane Austen readers group? A homeschool group? Where is it you feel most at home and can have fun that fills you up inside?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Remember When . . . Croquet Was the Game of the Day?

This past Saturday saw me in Annapolis, back on the campus of my alma mater, St. John's College. The last time I was in this beautiful Chesapeake town was to play sight-seer to research Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland, which I was still writing back in December. It was pretty fun to be there again, knowing the book is only a few months from reality.

We came back for the annual croquet tournament between St. John's and the Naval Academy. The what, you say? Yeah, that's right. Croquet. Big deal. Fun stuff. ;-)

Here's how the tradition got started. Annapolis has long been a college town, home to two very different schools. St. John's is liberal arts, small, and very academic . . . but also prone to hippies and free spirits who sit down right beside the New Englander in the three-piece suit. Contrasted with that is the Naval Academy, which is strict, huge, and gives equal billing to physical things as academic. So naturally, we're rivals. Friendly rivals, kinda like a giant might be theoretically a rival with a pygmy of a cousin, LOL. But back in 1983, apparently some Johnnies and some Middies (Midshipmen) were at a pub downtown and got into a tiff about how Johnnies had no athletic prowess. The Middie said, "We can beat you at any sport, any day of the week. Just name one." And the Johnnie said, "Okay. Croquet. Last Saturday in April."

Now, neither group actually knew how to play croquet at that point, but both quickly learned, and the Annapolis Cup was born. For the last 28 years the two teams have been meeting on the front campus of St. John's on the last Saturday in April, and this event has grown so huge that the campus is literally packed, wall to wall, with people. Some Johnnies, some Middies, some Townies (Annapolitans), and a whole lot of alumni from both. And St. John's has won all but 2 or 3 of those years. (OH YEAH!)

It was so cool this year. We spread our blanket right where the Liberty Tree used to tower, and I thought, "Wow, it was still here when Lark would have been here. Though the only building here was McDowell Hall, right there. And of course, St. John's didn't exist yet, it was still King William's School. Where Emerson and Wiley had attended. And the Naval Academy was still 50 years away . . ."

Yeah, I had a lot of fun thinking of my story while watching the event. There were hats there to rival those at the royal wedding (slight exaggeration, but only slight--note in the picture that even Xoe has an adorable pink hat on!), people love to dress in turn-of-the-century attire, everyone brings a champagne picnic, and it just feels so . . . nostalgic. Nothing beats it.

Croquet . . . who knew? LOL.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Story Time: The Fine Art of Insincerity - Interview and Giveaway

Today I'm thrilled to welcome the amazing Angela Hunt over to chat about her newest release, The Fine Art of Insincerity. You can read the Christian Review of Books' review of the book here. (Written by my pal Dina Sleiman.)

Angela has been gracious enough to offer a giveaway to one lucky reader, so to be entered to win, please leave a comment below with an email address where you can be reached. You can also leave a comment at the Christian Review of Books for a second entry.


About The Fine Art of Insincerity

Three grown Southern sisters have nine marriages between them—and more looming on the horizon—when Ginger, the eldest, wonders if she’s the only one who hasn’t inherited what their family calls “the Grandma Gene”: the tendency to like the casualness of courtship better than the intimacy of marriage. Could it be that her two sisters are fated to serially marry, just like their seven-times wed grandmother, Mrs. Lillian Irene Harper Winslow Goldstein Carey James Bobrinski Gordon George?  It takes a “girls only” weekend, closing up Grandma’s treasured beach house for the last time, for the sisters to really unpack their family baggage, examine their relationship DNA, and discover the true legacy their much-marrying grandmother left behind . . .


About Angela

With nearly 4 million copies of her books sold worldwide, ANGELA ELWELL HUNT is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books, including The Tale of Three Trees, Don't Bet Against Me!, The Note, and The Nativity Story. Hunt is one of the most sought-after collaborators in the publishing industry. Her nonfiction book Don't Bet Against Me!, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Angela's novel The Note was filmed as the Hallmark Channel's Christmas movie for 2007 and proved to be the highest rated television movie in the channel's history. She often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers' conferences. She and her husband make their home in Florida. Check out her website at http://www.angelahuntbooks.com.


What's your latest book?

The Fine Art of Insincerity just released from Howard Publishing on May 1, 2011.

What's your favorite part of the story?

The ending. The ending is always my favorite.

=) Nothing beats a good ending! What was the hardest part to write?

The ending. Once I get my characters into a muddle, I’m not always sure how to get them out of it!

LOL. Fitting, since it's also your favorite. What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

I hope they will think about their family relationships, about love, and about responsibility.

Is there a theme to this book?

Of course: insincerity.  All three sisters are false with each other, smiling on the surface, hiding secret resentments. Only when they open up and let the truth out are they free to really love and understand each other.

Hmm, I should have known that from the title alone, right? And I gotta say, it's a title that grabs me and sticks with me! What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I really don’t have a favorite. I enjoy reading and writing just about everything.

Well, that we must test. ;-) What are you reading right now—and what do you want to read next?

I’m currently reading LITTLE BEE by Chris Cleaver in fiction; and I’m researching near death experiences in nonfiction. I’m working on my dissertation for my Th. D.

Okay, I believe you, LOL. So other than the Bible, what's your favorite of all the books you've ever read?

The Nun’s Story, by Katherine Hulme. I read it as a young girl, and the protatonist’s devotion to God really impacted me.

What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

I don’t think I want to know . . .

Tee hee. What would your dream office look like—and what does your REAL writing environment look like?

My dream office would have a fireplace and be a bit more spacious than my present office . . . but only because my present office is always occupied by myself and two 200-pound dogs, and I have to constantly step over them! I’ve actually tripped and ended up on the floor with them.

400 pounds of dog?? Wow. I must confess I love those big ones. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

For this book I kept photos of St. Simons Island nearby . . . it’s a lovely place. I wouldn’t mind living there.

What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

I can barely remember my pre-published days, but I think new writers are amazed to discover how economics impacts this business.

Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

Writing takes up more time than you’d think—because when you’re not actually writing, you’re thinking about writing, or reading about writing, or dreaming about writing.  I do get on “kicks” that pique my interest.  My current kick is cupcakes. I’ve been buying cupcake cookbooks and trying out recipes on my book club. (And I think I’m going to write cupcakes into my next book).

Oo, cupcakes! Yum! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

I received a call saying that I had won a contest—and first prize was publication—back in 1987. That was my first book, a picture book called IF I HAD LONG, LONG HAIR.  I stayed awake that night for a long time, not because I was too excited to sleep, but because I kept thinking about the responsibility that had just fallen onto my shoulders. Books have the power to change lives—so I prayed that my books would always change lives for the better.

If you could take your family on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Italy, particularly Florence.  I’ve been studying Italian Renaissance art, and Florence is where the action is . . . or was. 

Ah, I did some Renaissance art-related writing research of Florence too. Looks like a fabulous place to visit! That Tuscan countryside . . . but back to business. ;-) What are you writing right now?

I’m beginning a new book called FIVE MILES SOUTH OF PECULIAR. What’s it about?  Too soon to tell.  =)


Thanks so much for visiting with us, Angela! Readers, be sure and check out her website at http://www.angelahuntbooks.com and her blog at http://alifeinpages.blogspot.com. You can find The Fine Art of Insincerity at Amazon and CrossPurposes!

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 6/1/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.